Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Reye’s syndrome is a rare disorder that affects many parts of the human body, particularly in brain and the liver. In short, it is defined as a two-phase disease that progress with the onset of viral illness. After the recovery of initial infection, the disease again develops to serious condition involves inflammation of the brain and the liver. Hence, the disorder is referred as a syndrome i.e., characterized by different symptoms.

Is Reye's Disease Contagious?

Most often it affects the children and teenagers and in rare cases adults are also vulnerable to this disease. It is not clear why children are more susceptible than the adult. It is not a contagious disease and does not spread from person to person. The onset of viral illness may lead to contagiousness, but not the syndrome. A contagious disease is described as when someone touches or exposed to the infected sample. Reye’s syndrome is incapable of being transmitted by direct or indirect contact because of the cause of the syndrome is absolutely unknown.

Reye's syndrome is noncontagious and often the physicians misdiagnose the disease as meningitis and chemical poisoning, a lot of misconception about the cause of the disease during the 70s and 80s. Reye’s compared with spruce budworm insecticide spray and later no association was found. Many cases were identified during the month of winter and spring season. It was assumed that climate and geographical location also a triggering factor for the cause of the diseases. But the fact is it is seen in all regions of the world affecting all ages, races, and gender.

Common cold, chicken pox and influenza are mostly responsible for the early viral illness. The exact cause of the mechanism of developing into serious secondary phase illness still remains a mystery to the experts. There is a lot of hypotheses indicated that unknown virus responsible for the sudden change of illness. Some scientific professional said that individuals with certain genes triggered the susceptibility. None of the studies showed strong evidence for the cause of the syndrome. But some studies in the early 70s and 80s have some scientific evidence reported that Reye's syndrome was associated with aspirin intake.

Aspirin is chemically known as salicylate. Excess concentration in the human body is hepatotoxic, particularly to mitochondrial cells. The damages to the powerhouse of the cell cause an elevated level of liver enzymes, as well as a high dose of salicylate, alter the metabolism of fatty acids. The liver is the principal organ carries several metabolisms and elimination process such as toxic metabolites. When it is impaired, accumulation of ammonia at a high level is seen which can cause inflammation in brain cells. If the symptoms are not treated on time, Reye’s may develop to coma, seizure, and death. So, the consequence on the central nervous system (brain damage) is the direct outcome of the effects on the liver impairment.

There is no cure for Reye’s syndrome and treatment involved only for the alleviation of the symptoms. The physician recommends drugs for the cerebral edema and intravenous fluids to restore the normal blood chemistry. Although the evidence is supportive that aspirin is not involved in the cause of Reye’s syndrome, it is suggested not to give aspirin during a viral illness to children.

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: May 18, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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